Category Archives: Computers

TRS-80 100 for the 21st century.

What I really want is a distraction free device.  Back in the 1980’s I really wanted a TRS-80 100 portable computer.  It was a simple, all in one computer that had a 40×8  line text display.  However, in 2017, this is just a horribly outdated device that commands a very steep price, well over $100 for a working model.  I wanted something affordable, practical, modern enough to work with modern computers, and, most importantly, be distraction free. 

The TRS-80 100

dana wireless.: you can see the resemblance to the TRS-80 100

I heard about dana word processors in the past and finally found a model that really met all my needs, the dana wireless.   It is a Palm based device, released in the mid 00’s,  I am very familiar with Palm devices and it has 2 SD slots and USB connectivity and USB printing.  It meets all of my needs, and then some.  The device also has a wireless connection, but I really have not tried that, since I wanted something to create on without the distraction of Facebook, twitter, and a host of other distractions.  Best of all, a good, working, clean model can be had for less than $25, shipped.  

This whole post was written in just a few minutes on the dana.  I have really missed a single tasking device, like a word processor.  Yes, it is a full fledged Palm based device, but I don’t have to use any of these features.  I can just press the Memo button and start typing.  I also installed a 128mb SD card, so I don’t have to worry about dead batteries and I can easily plug the SD card into any modern computer.

The device is fairly light, about 2.5 lbs, and runs off of 3 AA batteries.  The rated battery life is 20 hours, but I will see how that works out in real life.  The keyboard is full sized and has a nice travel and click.  The most endearing feature is when it sends files to your computer, via USB.  When you plug the dana in, it emulates a USB keyboard.  Just open a document, select the transfer speed, and the text in the document gets ‘typed’ to the screen.  It really is cool to watch, and makes text transfers possible to ANY computer with USB.  

I’ll update this post as I spend more time with the little word processor, but so far, it has already exceeded my expectations.  

September 16, 2017

Modified the dana to have internal NiMH batteries.

The battery indicator now show the correct levels.  When regular AA are installed, looking for 1.5V instead of 1.25 volts.  This should allow the dana to be useful for years to come. I can now charge the unit and, if the batteries fail, simply replace them with a new set in a few years.



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Posted by on September 16, 2017 in Computers

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How to not get hacked

Hacking, in the sense of a remote compromise of a networked or local compromise of a computer, is your data being accessed by parties unknown.  Hacking has evolved from simple phone phreaking (ever wonder why is spelled with a ph?) to curious individuals, to corporations, to, now, entire governments being behind and subject to hacking.  

I have been using computers for over 30 years and there is one thing I know:  If someone wants your information, they will get your information.  I don’t care how many firewalls or intrusion countermeasures you have, what operating system you are running, or hardware you are running; if it is networked, they can get in.  If they can get local access to your machine, they will get in.  

If it is hopeless, what can you do to keep sensitive information?  You will need 3 things:  A writing implement, such as a pen or pencil, paper, and bad handwriting.  If it really matters, get a blank book, write it down in handwriting only you can read, and put that book in a safe place.  Even if your home is broken into, it will be difficult to decipher the information.  If the book is stolen, well, you know what was written down in there and exactly what was lost.  At least with your poor penmanship, a human will have to painstakingly decipher your chicken scratch.  You can also destroy the book in a fire and grind the ashes.  

If you must use a computer, DO NOT NETWORK THE COMPUTER.  DO NOT INSTALL A WIRELESS CARD.  Have a specific computer that will never be connected to the internet, ever.  Yes, very 1983, but what else can you  do?  DO NOT STORE SENSITIVE FILES ON A HARD DRIVE.  Keep all files, encrypted, on a device that can be easily destroyed.  Something like a micro-SD card.  Tiny enough to hide anywhere, small enough to be destroyed if the need arises.  A cross cut paper shredder will do.  Someone with enough time and money might be able to get information using a scanning electron microscope, then decrypting the data, but, seriously, what are you doing to deserve that kind of attention?

If these steps seem a little extreme, they are.   The paper/book based is my personal choice, and I have really bad handwriting.  It can never be hacked remotely and I don’t write anything down that is illegal anyway, just personal that I don’t want strangers to see.  Turns out that little diary or journal you kept as a kid is the most secure choice after all.

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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Computers, General Comments

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Unexpected Mac User

With all the stupid going on with the election, I have had a few tech updates. First off, I picked up an iMac G3 450 DV, Ruby, for less than 10 dollars at a thrift store. Apparently, it was used in a kindergarten in Morton Grove.  I always loved the look of the old iMacs, but never wanted to spend over $1,000 on a piece of electronics that goes out of date in 18 months.

Cleaned it up, replaced the 64mb of RAM with 1Gig, then replaced the 20G 5400 RPM hard drive with a 40G, 7200 RPM drive. With the bus speeds, I am not going to bother to try to fine a PATA/IDE solid state drive.

I also installed Mac OS 10.3 and Lubuntu 16.04 on there. Lubuntu runs just fine, and I can use the latest software on there. It now proudly inhabits my workshop and is a good music player, a way to take notes, and lightly surf the web for projects I am working on. If I really need power, I just SSH to my desktop machine upstairs and use the iMac as a graphical terminal.  I was going to try to use the Mac OS (9.4 or 10.3) but they have been abandoned a long time ago, and I need a modern web browser.


In other Mac news, picked up the beautiful Logitech K750-mac solar powered keyboard. All of the Mac mappings work just fun under Linux. It is about the nicest keyboards I have ever used. Super thin and high quality and it charges with room lighting.  I actually don’t mind the Mac layout, a much better use for the function keys, now they are volume control, program launchers, etc.


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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Computers

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Retro-future charm

Retro-future charm

I decided to try something different, and I am not sure if anyone else has tried it. I wanted to take the best word processor that I could find (WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS) and make it compatible with ‘the cloud’. Well, I have found a way to make it work.

For the WordPerfect side of things, it is easy. Found a nice, working copy of 6.0 and installed it and use it via DosBOX. It is super stable, has an unobtrusive interface, and the best spell checker, even after 20 years.

Then, signed up for Dropbox and installed the client on all the computers that I use. Finally, I make sure DosBOX runs from the Dropbox folder. DOS is shockingly good on space, even with a bunch of games installed, and Windows 3.1, it only takes a small percentage of my Dropbox quota. So, now, when I fire up my WordPerfect for DOS, every thing I save to my “C:” drive is synchronized with my Dropbox storage. I can start a blog post on my netbook, and finish it on my home computer, right where I left off.

It is a little hokey, but it works really well and any changes I make, like install a new game, save my progress, etc. in a DOS application is automatically synchronized to all of my computers. Even using the small 2 gigs of space, that is more than enough for my needs. Anyone else doing something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Computers

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Returning to my roots.

I have been using computers a long time, and my biggest gripe is something as simple as a decent word processor. Frankly, trying to get something typed using a modern program like Word or Open or Libre office is an exercise is distraction. So, I have decided to return to my roots, and create in the program that I originally learned word processing on, Word Perfect for DOS. Using the DOSBox emulator, I was able to find an abondonware site that had copies of the original floppies. It runs like a dream. The great thing is that, in full screen mode, I am free from all the distractions. All I can see is this simple interface. It does have all the features (and in some cases more) than any word processor, including spell and grammar checker, WYSIWYG view, and a macros which still have not been matched. Heck, it even has reveal codes, which really allows you to modify every aspect of a document.

Screenshot from 2014-06-02 23:03:18

So, here I am, typing away at the same word processor I used in college, and high school, and you know what, it feels good. The simple cyan screen is easier on the eyes than the blinding white with black text. It may be great that it looks like a piece of paper, but with modern monitors, it is really hard on my old eyes. Also, with the limited resolution, the characters are just plain huge on the screen. I like to type without my glasses on, so this really is a blessing. I can see why some writers still use DOS based word processing. It is fast, great for touch typists and bad spellers. I don’t miss the red squiggly at all. I know you can turn it off, but it is just more natural this way.

Luckily, modern word processors running under Linux can easily read WordPerfect format files WordPerfect can also write and read Rich Text Format, which has be a standard for over 20 years. I really have to give this old workhorse one thing, it is stable and very fast. I am very impressed with how complete a program WordPerfect is, with a built in file manager, graphical mode, and a very impressive database of printers. I prefer the postscript pass through, just print to that printer and you can easily print to a modern printer. I am sure if I had an old computer I could find some printer it would work with.


So, if you need a fast, simple, but feature rich word processor, take a look at good, old WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS on abandonware sites. It works like a charm under DOSBox. Even though it is 20 years old, it gets the job done. You will get some odd stares when people see what you are using, but I like tools that work and stay out of my way. I grew up on, so why reinvent the wheel? I do think younger users will be surprised how well it works. I wrote this blog post using it.








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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in antique, Computers

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